Today’s guest blog was written by current Praxis participant James Walpole.
“Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Passionate people encounter this criticism from their peers often enough, and it is a generally accepted virtue to make light of personal pride or ambition.
I would be willing to guess that for many of us, this judgment invariably follows our moments of boldness, openness, or even righteous anger. In other words, the moments in which we are criticized for taking ourselves too seriously are the ones in which we express the best parts of ourselves. Yet we are told that we are not significant enough to deserve the significance of those moments, and we tend to agree.
Why do we so uncritically accept our own seriousness as vice? There are few more harmful judgments. When we have surrendered our own right to significance, we will always find that we are never old enough, experienced enough, or respected enough for it to be given back. Those who find seriousness objectionable in self-evaluation will not recognize significance when they evaluate others. It is neither worthwhile nor effective to wait to “be taken seriously” by the people who would advise us to take ourselves as punchlines.
On the other hand, taking ourselves seriously is a choice, and it is a primary one. If we are going to respect any of our own decisions and trust any of our evaluations in life, we have to consider ourselves worthy to make those decisions and evaluations. Our idea of our own significance plays itself out in the ways we build our character and achieve our goals. How would that character and those goals be different if we chose to honor rather than mock ourselves?
There are plenty of things in life not worth taking seriously, such as small mistakes, excessive praise, or bad advice (see: “Don’t take yourself so seriously”). Life is not one of these. Let’s take ourselves seriously. We may discover that there is a lightness to living with the weight of significance.